Sunday, May 6, 2012

First days in Warsaw, May 4 and 5, the 27th and 28th of the Omer

notice the vegetation on the roof of Alkos Inn
I can hear a cuckoo bird along the Krutinia River a few yards away, and closer by are cheeps, whistles, chirps, and whirring wings.  I'm in the lake district, Mazury, a blessedly under-populated (of humans and cars) region of northeastern Poland.  Lucyna brought us yesterday to this cleverly-designed inn, and it's been like heaven.  It's 6 a.m. and she's still sleeping, but I'm on the terrace outside the room, looking at the trees on the slope down to the river.  The sun is up somewhere behind me, and it's warm enough so that my flannel pants, fleece jacket, and green tea protect from the morning chill.  This is the second time I've been in Poland, and because each time I've come during spring time, I (unlike most people, especially Jews) associate it not just with sad and cruel history alone but also with beautiful meadows, verdant fields and forests, blossoming chestnut trees, and reed-lined rivers.  The background photograph on this blog is a view from the canoe yesterday in late afternoon.  

I arrived on Friday afternoon at the Chopin airport in Warsaw, and, met by Lucyna, we took a taxi to the "service flat" owned by the Warsaw University of Social Sciences and Humanities (SWPS), the institution sponsoring this Fulbright Specialist visit, where we stayed the night. 

enhancing the pizza

 We had dinner at an Italian restaurant.  Italian restaurants are ubiquitous in Poland, though the pizza and the Greek salad that are served are not at all like the California version of Italian food -- the feta cheese had a smooth, fine texture and although the pizza was quite good, the sauce is really bland!   But that's okay, because they bring a pitcher of extra sauce to the table that you can pour over the pizza, so you can sort of convince yourself that twice as much intensifies the flavor.

it was love at first sight
the view from Lucyna's balcony
The next morning we took a 3 hour train ride northeast to Bialystok.  There we drank tea and gulped down tasty fruit tarts with Lucyna's husband in their charming, cheery apartment, while their beloved and extremely fat cat--amazingly, this cat has no name, a phenomenon I filed away to ponder during a later, empty moment--coddled and hugged my little black backpack non-stop the entire visit (that, too, deserves some rumination). 

air vent disguised as a nest
We bid farewell to husband and feline and drove off in Lucyna's car to Mazury, the delightful Polish lake district about two hours to the northwest.The inn is called Alkos, which the receptionist told us means"the sacred and divine heart of the forest" in old Polish, but the two of us think that is probably New Age nonsense.  Really, who cares, since the place is exquisitely and carefully designed to be a treat for the eyes at every turn, a carefully crafted fantastical version of a Viking fortress for a king who loves his creature comforts.  We are happy to be the only guests here!  Alkos is part of a larger complex called Galindia, which has a "parent" inn with many guests, plus a full array of programs featuring faux Vikings with clubs, wenches dressed in flowing linen, and torches and nets and awesome wooden statues.   

Lucyna, ace canoer
We took advantage of the terrific regional food with real taste: Lucyna had
fruit blintzes, I had kasha and spinach and extraordinary mushrooms.  I know that does not sound exciting, but it was lip-smacking good and gave me Popeye-like energy for the strenuous exercise ahead.  We hiked back to Alkos via the forest path the long way (getting lost twice) and then got into one of the inn's canoes for a paddle up the river.  The Krutinia River was placid and gorgeous, and before long Lucyna (no coercion on my part, truly) admitted that she was enjoying canoeing and could see why I'm smitten by it. 

Krutinia reeds
There we were, Pocahontas and Hiawatha, gliding silently alongside the ducks, under the trees, between the reeds.  Birds warbled, insects clicked, and fish made bubbles.  When the sun was nearly all gone we returned to the inn's shore, drank steaming hot mint tea on our terrace, and went to sleep.          

1 comment:

  1. I am completely envious of your lake district vacation (and nameless fat, black cat encounter)! A real cuckoo and the opportunity to eat an authentic blintz. Meanwhile, it's still the end of the semester here and people are still going crazy. xo Judith